The Ghent Christmas Market, known as the Ghent Winter Festival, opens on Thursday, December 7, 2023 and closes on Sunday, December 31, 2023. The market is located in the historic city center of Ghent, Belgium, spreading across several central squares and along the Graslei Harbor.
The market features over 150 wooden stalls selling gifts, ornaments, festive foods, drinks and local handicrafts. Key attractions of the Christmas market include the Ferris wheel, carousel, musical entertainment and the medieval cities of Graslei and Korenlei decorated with Christmas lights. Visitors can visit sights like Saint Bavo's Cathedral, the Belfry of Ghent and Gravensteen Castle, which were decorated for the holidays. Foods to try include Belgian chocolates, frites, waffles, raclette and seasonal beers. The market does not charge an entry fee and the only optional costs involved would be fees for rides, food, drinks and special events. The market's extended opening hours provide ample time for visitors to enjoy the festivities.
What is the Ghent Christmas Market?
The Ghent Christmas Market, known as the Ghent Winter Festival, has a long history as one of Europe's largest and oldest Yuletide markets. The market has medieval origins, from an annual winter fair to one of Belgium's standout holiday events.
The Ghent Christmas Market traces back to 1199 when Count Baldwin IX of Flanders granted the city's port commissioners permission to hold an annual winter fair. This evolved into the present-day Christmas market tradition. The market was prominent by the 15th century, known for selling handicrafts and seasonal treats. Records mention spice bread, waffles, mead and mulled wine among the specialties of Ghent. The market was not held continuously as it was banned at the end of the 18th century by the city due to major social changes under French rule, but residents of Ghent later brought back the tradition.
The modern form of the market as it exists today has been held since 1818 without interruption on the Friday before Advent. It opens the yearly winter festivities season in Ghent. The market is in the historic city center across several squares and along the Graslei Harbor. The market features over 150 wooden stalls selling Christmas trees and wreaths, handicrafts, seasonal treats and gifts, with emphasis on local foods, beers and chocolates.
When does the Ghent Christmas Market open?
The Ghent Christmas Market, known as the Ghent Winter Festival, opens on Thursday, December 07, 2023 and closes on Sunday, December 31, 2023. The Christmas Market operates daily from 12 pm to 9 pm, with extended hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
Where is the Ghent Christmas Market taking place?
The Ghent Christmas Market is an authentic and festive market taking place in Ghent, Belgium. The market is located in the historic city center, from Sint-Baafsplein Square to the end of Korenmarkt and along the Graslei Harbor.
Why should you visit the Ghent Christmas Market?
Listed below are the reasons why you should visit the Ghent Christmas Market.
- Historic Setting. The market is located in the historic center of Ghent, allowing visitors to explore the city's rich history and architecture while enjoying the festive activities. The market is spread throughout the city center, with various stalls and attractions scattered along the streets and squares of Ghent, providing a perfect opportunity to discover the city's historic landmarks and sights.
- Gifts and Local Delicacies. The market offers a wide variety of local delicacies, Christmas foods and unique gifts, providing an excellent opportunity for holiday shopping and culinary exploration. Visitors can explore the Ghent local artisans’ market stalls to find unique and crafted gifts.
- Family-Friendly Activities. The market features a giant Ferris Wheel, an ice skating rink and a special Moose bar, making it an ideal destination for a winter break, especially for families with kids. Ghent Christmas Market features a Children’s Village and a small vintage merry-go-round, providing entertainment for the little ones.
- Festive Entertainment. The market is filled with Christmas decorations, food and drink vendors and entertainment, such as folk groups, brass bands and choirs, creating a lively and joyful atmosphere. Visitors to the Ghent Christmas Market can enjoy songs, jazz music and folk performances, adding to the festive spirit of the event.
- Cultural and Artistic Treasures. The Ghent Christmas Market showcases cultural and artistic treasures. Visitors can explore the city's rich history and architecture while enjoying the festive activities. The market's location in the historic center of Ghent provides an opportunity to admire medieval and Renaissance statues, stained windows and other remarkable pieces, adding a cultural dimension to the visit.
What is the cost of visiting the Ghent Christmas Market?
The Ghent Christmas Market does not charge an entry fee. Access to the market squares and streets is completely free. Visitors can wander the stalls, displays and attractions without needing to buy a ticket. The only optional costs involved would be fees for rides, food, drinks and special events. Rides to carousels, Ferris wheels, use of ice skating rink and other rides require tickets that cost €2 ($2, £1) to €8 ($8, £7). Food and drinks at the Christmas market range between €2 ($2, £1) and €8 ($8, £7). Special Christmas market events and concerts require separate tickets that cost €5 ($5, £4) to €10 ($10, £8). Visitors are advised to bring cash as some stalls may not accept card payments and there are ATMs available nearby if needed. The market's extended opening hours provide ample time for visitors to enjoy the festivities.
What are the attractions close to the Ghent Christmas Market?
Listed below are the attractions close to the Ghent Christmas Market.
- Saint Bavo's Cathedral. Saint Bavo’s Cathedral is located 0.1 kilometers (0.1 miles) from the Ghrent Christmas Market. The Gothic cathedral is a must-visit because of its proximity to the market and the famous Ghent Altarpiece inside. Christmas market visitors can easily visit this renowned artwork while experiencing the Christmas market festivities right outside.
- The Belfry of Ghent. The Belfry of Ghent provides overhead views of the bustling Christmas market and decorated city below, located 0.3 kilometers (0.2 miles) from the Ghent Christmas Market. Christmas market visitors can take photos from the top and listen to the tower's carillon Christmas music.
- Gravensteen Castle. Gravensteen Castle provides views from its tower of the Ghent Christmas Market, which is located 0.4 kilometers (0.3 miles) away. The castle hosts special events like the Winter Wonder Castle with festive decorations so Christmas market visitors of Ghent can experience two Christmas attractions simultaneously.
- Saint Nicholas' Church. Saint Nicholas’ Church is located 0.4 kilometers (0.3 miles) from Ghent Christmas Market. The church is part of the stunning architecture that Christmas market visitors can visit in Ghent. The Christmas lighting outside of the church makes it extra special.
- Graslei and Korenle. Graslei and Korenei are medieval cities located 0.6 kilometers (0.5 miles) from Ghent Christmas Market. These historical cities are filled with Christmas lights, outdoor cafes and trees, creating a riverside wonderland to stroll through after visiting the market. The decorations and atmosphere make it very popular with Christmas market visitors.
Is there an alternative name for the Ghent Christmas Market?
Yes, the Ghent Christmas Market is known as the Ghent Winter Festival, “Gentse Winterfeesten” in “Dutch and Marché de Noël de Gand in French”. The alternative name, “Gentse Winterfeesten” highlights the festival's transformation of the historic center into a winter wonderland, complete with market stalls, vintage merry-go-rounds and Christmas lights. Ghent Winter Festival emphasizes the diverse and festive activities that take place, making it an ideal destination for a fun winter break, especially for families with kids.
What is the impact of the Ghent Christmas Market on the local economy and tourism?
The Ghent Christmas Market positively impacts Ghent's local economy and tourism. The market generates substantial revenue for the city, provides income for local businesses and vendors, creates seasonal employment and promotes cultural heritage. The market's transformation of the historic center into a winter wonderland attracts a large number of visitors, leading to increased spending on accommodations, dining and shopping. Local artisans and merchants benefit from the sale of their goods and the demand for temporary staff during the event creates seasonal job opportunities. The market's festive atmosphere and attractions, such as the Ferris wheel, vintage merry-go-rounds and the Moose bar, contribute to the promotion of Ghent's cultural heritage, making it a desirable destination for domestic and international tourists.
Is the Ghent Christmas Market better than the Brussels Christmas Market?
Yes, the Ghent Christmas Market is better than the Brussels Christmas Market in terms of atmosphere, crowd, variety, authenticity and value. The Ghent Christmas Market is praised for its intimate atmosphere and manageable crowds. Ghent offers a more peaceful, less hectic experience for the Christmas Market visitors. Ghent Christmas Market has over 150 decorated wooden stalls selling a diverse range of Christmas gifts, ornaments, foods, local delicacies and warming winter drinks. Ghent aims for a more traditional, authentic market focused on handmade crafts and goods as opposed to global or commercial items. Visitors can find unique, one-of-a-kind gifts. The prices for food, drinks and gifts are more affordable and have better value; less commercialization means less inflated tourist prices.
What food can visitors eat at the Ghent Christmas Market?
Listed below are the foods visitors can eat at the Ghent Christmas Market.
- Belgian Chocolates. Visitors can indulge in the rich and creamy Belgian chocolates that are a must-try for the Ghent Christmas Market. These hand-crafted chocolates come in various flavors and are perfect for gifting or enjoying yourself.
- Belgian Frites with Mayo. Belgian Frites with mayo is a known Belgian dish; the crispy and golden Belgian frites served with a dollop of creamy mayo are a savory delight that is a must-try at Ghent Christmas Market. It is a snack to enjoy during the market festivities.
- Stroopwafels. Stroopwafels are thin waffle cookies filled with caramel syrup and are a sweet and indulgent treat that pairs perfectly with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. They are a popular choice at the Ghent Christmas Market and are perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
- Raclette. Raclette is a warm and gooey Swiss cheese dish that is perfect for warming up on a cold winter's day. The melted cheese is typically served at Ghent Christmas Market with potatoes, gherkins and pickled onions, creating a hearty and satisfying meal. Raclette is considered one of the must-try Belgian food for international visitors.
- Speculoos. Speculoos are crunchy spice biscuits with a blend of cloves, white pepper, nutmeg and cardamom and are a popular choice for visitors looking for a sweet and spicy treat. Speculoos is the perfect pair for coffee or hot chocolate while strolling the Ghent Christmas Market.
- Bûche de Noël. Bûche de Noël is a glazed, chocolate crème au beurre cake that has been rolled to look like a log of wood. It is a traditional Christmas treat in Belgium. It is a rich and indulgent dessert that is perfect for the festive season and is served at the Ghent Christmas Market.
What to drink in the Ghent Christmas Market?
Listed below are the drinks you can have at the Ghent Christmas Market.
- Glühwein (Mulled Wine). Glühwein is a traditional hot spiced red wine that is a must-have drink at any European Christmas market. Glühwein is available at the Ghent Christmas market. The rich red wine is infused with orange, lemon, cinnamon, star anise and cloves. It is usually served in commemorative mugs that visitors can take home.
- Hot Chocolate. Hot Chocolate, made from melted chocolate shavings and steamed milk, is a traditional drink available at Ghent Christmas Market stalls. It is topped with whipped cream or marshmallows and enjoyed by market visitors.
- Fruit Wines. Fruit Wines using strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and other fruits are a specialty in Ghent. Fruit wines are often sweetened and sometimes fortified with brandy or other spirits. These fruit wines are available at the Ghent Christmas Market.
- Christmas Beers. Belgium offers a selection of Christmas beers, including Bush De Noël and Glühkriek, inspired by Scotch Ale. Three popular beer cafés in Ghent are Waterhuis aan de bierkant, De Trollekelder and De Dulle Griet. These Christmas beers are served at Ghent Christmas Market.
- Belgian Jenever. Belgian Jenever is a traditional Belgian liquor, similar to gin and is often enjoyed during the winter season, especially at the Ghent Christmas Market. It comes in a variety of flavors and is perfect for visitors looking to experience a taste of local spirits.
What can people buy in the Ghent Christmas Market?
Listed below are the things you can buy at the Ghent Christmas market.
- Local Delicacies. Ghent is known for its delicious local delicacies, which make for perfect gifts. These can range from artisanal chocolates to traditional biscuits like speculoos, offering a taste of the region's culinary heritage. These local delicacies are featured at the Ghent Christmas Market.
- Handmade Crafts. The Ghen Christmas Market features numerous stalls offering handmade crafts and artisanal products, such as pottery, jewelry and textiles. These unique and carefully crafted items make for special and memorable gifts.
- Christmas Decorations. Visitors to Ghent Christmas Market can find a variety of festive decorations, including ornaments, candles and other holiday-themed items to add a touch of Ghent's Christmas spirit to their homes.
- Belgian Beers and Spirits. The Ghent Christmas Market offers a selection of Belgian beers, including Christmas brews, traditional ales and local spirits like Belgian jenever. These make for great gifts for those who appreciate quality beverages.
- Winter Accessories. The Ghent Christmas Market features stalls selling a range of winter accessories, such as scarves, gloves and hats, which can make for practical and thoughtful gifts during the winter season.
How to get to the Ghent Christmas Market?
There are four ways to get to Ghent Christmas Market. These are by plane, train, tram, taxi and on foot. Firstly, by plane, the closest airport is Brussels Airport (BRU), located 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Ghent. Visitors can take a direct train to Ghent-Sint-Pieters station, which takes 1 hour. The Christmas market is a 25-minute walk or a short tram ride from the station. Secondly, Ghent has two train stations by train: Gent-Sint-Pieters and Gent-Dampoort. The Sint-Pieters station is closest to the Christmas market and visitors can walk to the market for 25 minutes from the train station. Thirdly, Trams 1 and 22 go from Gent-Sint-Pieters station to the Korenmarkt stop, where the Christmas market is held. Fourthly, by taxi, there are always taxis available outside the Ghent train stations. Taxi from Gent-Sint Pieters to the Ghent Christmas Market takes 10 minutes. Lastly, visitors can head towards the city center on foot to reach the market.
Where to stay in Ghent during the Ghent Christmas Market?
Listed below are the best hotels to stay near the Ghent Christmas Market. stay in Belgium
- 1898 The Post. 1898 The Post is a boutique hotel set in a former 19th-century post office building along the Leie River, located 0.3 kilometers (0.2 miles) from the Ghent Christmas Market. The elegant rooms feature antique furnishings, marble bathrooms and city views, while the onsite restaurant serves an American-style breakfast.
- Ghent Marriott Hotel. Ghent Marriot Hotel features views of the Korenlei River and is 0.5 kilometers (0.4 miles) from Ghent Christmas Market. This modern hotel has an art deco-inspired lobby, a fitness center, a bar, a riverside restaurant and contemporary rooms.
- NH Gent Belfort. NH Gent Belfort is located 0.2 kilometers (0.1 miles) from Ghent's Town Hall. This contemporary hotel is only a 2-minute walk from the Ghent Christmas Market. It offers stylish rooms with flat-screen TVs and free WiFi, a fine dining restaurant, a bar with a terrace for relaxing and an onsite gym with a sauna for working out. The proximity of NH Gent Belfort makes it the best place to stay in Belgium to enjoy the Christmas festivities.
What are the best restaurants to eat in Ghent?
Listed below are the best restaurants to eat in Ghent.
- Publiek. Publiek is a restaurant in Ghent that serves contemporary Belgian food housed in a former bank with trendy loft-style décor. This restaurant fuses Belgian traditions with global influences across small and large plates like yellowfin tuna tataki, Flemish stoofvlees stew and lemon cheesecake using local, seasonal ingredients. Publiek is a recommended restaurant by tourists and locals and is the best place to eat in Ghent.
- Oak. Oak is located along the Leie River in Ghent. Oak is a refined Michelin-starred restaurant surrounded by nature that utilizes foraged herbs and local vegetables to prepare a seasonal tasting menu that includes confit duck with cherries or north sea crab with fennel and sea buckthorn.
- Amadeus. Amadeus serves classic Belgian food at the Graslei Harbor in Ghent in a 16th-century guild hall. This Belgian tavern features dishes like eel in green herb sauce, rabbit stew with prunes, pork cheeks with Ghent mustard and their famed appelbollen fritters with Calvados sauce.
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